Reviewed by Judy Richter
Undaunted, the ambitious but non-professional Broadway By the Bay in Redwood City has risen to the challenge and has met it wonderfully.
Based on Victor Hugo's French novel, "Les Misérables," or "Les Miz," is a sprawling story covering more than 17 years and dealing with the rampant poverty and oppression endured by many people.
The central character is Jean Valjean (Adam S. Campbell), paroled in 1815 after serving 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his sister's starving child. Breaking his parole, he assumes a new identity, becoming a businessman and community leader.
When one of his fired factory workers, Fantine (Mia Fryvecind Gimenez), dies in 1823, he assumes guardianship of her young daughter. In Paris in 1832, talk of revolution is brewing among university students. Their talk becomes armed resistance, which is quickly squelched by the authorities, led by Javert (Anthony Bernal). Javert is the policeman who has pursued Valjean for more than 17 years.
With its soaring music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and quasi-operatic style, "Les Miz" needs outstanding singers for both the central characters and the many secondary characters. The BBB cast is equal to the task, with outstanding contributions by Campbell as Valjean and Bernal as Javert. Other fine principals are Jason Rehklau as Marius, one of the students; Erin Ashe as Eponine, whose love for him is unrequited; and Samantha Cardenas as the adult Cosette, who instantly captures Marius's heart.
In somewhat secondary roles are Melissa Reinertson and Joseph Hudelson as the Thénardiers, unscrupulous innkeepers; Matthew Thomas Provencal as Enjolras as the students' leader; and Gimenez as Fantine.
Numerous other people in this 33-member cast take have their moments in the spotlight as soloists and as part of the ensemble. Music director Sean Kana elicits fine contributions from all of the singers as well as the 16-member orchestra.
Some of the more memorable songs include "At the End of the Day," "Master of the House," "A Heart Full of Love," "One Day More," "Bring Him Home" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."
Kudos to director Jasen Jeffrey, assisted by Maureen Duffey Frentz, and choreographer Devon LaRussa for keeping the action moving almost seamlessly amidst all the scene changes. The set by Kelly James Tighe is part of this process, as are projections by Erik Scanlon, sound by Jon Hayward and costumes by Liz Martin, coordinated by Kate Schroeder. The lighting is by Michael Ramsaur, but the spot operators had some missteps at the March 14 performance.
Running about three hours with one intermission, this BBB production is one of the company's most ambitious and successful undertakings in recent years. It's a must-see.
Unfortunately it runs only through March 22 at the Fox Theatre, but it's worth the trip to see it when it travels to the Golden State Theatre in Monterey from March 28 to April 5.
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